A Universe Explodes

The book that is owned

So this is a book?

Yes, this is a disintegrating novel to be read on a smartphone. A very short story, about life and everything.

And... ?

Well, it is also a digital experiment into ideas of access and ownership. A book that is 'accessible' to anyone, but 'owned' by only a few.

OK. Go on. What's it about?

The story deals with a parent who has lost touch with life and is losing touch with their reality. It is a story about sequences and language. It is a story that needs to erode and be destroyed. That's sort of the point.

And how is the book owned exactly?

We think this will be the first time a book uses blockchain to create a limited-edition of 100 digital books. Books that one can own. Each owner must affect their edition of the book, forever. Making them all unique.

Right, so what happens if I own it?

The 'owner' of each book is obliged to add one word and remove two from every page and then they must give their copy away. Eventually (after 128 owners) each of the 100 editions only has 1 word per page. As the content deteriorates, the book itself is enriched by the rituals of ownership.

Sounds complicated. Why does it need to erode?

The editing mechanic is part of the story. It conveys an expression of erasure of the self, the idea of the self being rewritten until all that is left is a skeletal version of what others might read into you. We see this motif echoed in the narrative: the story is fluid, the transition confusing, the purpose unclear. It is also kinda geeky.

Can I read any of the owned books?

Yes. There are 100 versions of the book. You can see any of them, at any stage of deterioration, and see who owned it at that stage. You can also easily compare it with the original text. The book contains its own list of owners and their edits, sentiments and provenance.

The Blockchain part, how does that work again?

Actually, Blockchain is quite complex for an FAQ like this - so we made a film and wrote a blog post to explore the original concepts, the science, and all the other behind-the-scenes thinking here: bit.ly/auniverseexplodes

One last question... Why?

We hope to open up the idea that digital ownership can be something that is distinct from a license to access, just as eating cake is distinct from the joy of having cake. Equally we think that these new ideas can inspire writers to use digital to push the potential of the form as well as their word-count. Most of all we hope you enjoy reading, sharing and editing our simple story.

OK, this really is the last question. How do I get to 'own' a copy?

This experiment is now complete, so all owners have been assigned.

PS. To all the Universe Explodes owners we send you a special familial hug via this strange and beautiful digital chain that ties us together.

Editions At Play

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